Introduction Early diagnosis and treatment of infectious tuberculosis (TB) is an important strategy for controlling the burden of disease by minimising the spread of infection and secondary disease in close contacts. Since 2005, we have developed a centralised rapid referral system in Leicester for the early assessment of suspected TB by a specialist physician. The system is triggered by a list of “red-flag” symptoms submitted on a proforma and/or appropriate coding by the reporting radiologist of all abnormal chest radiographs compatible with a possible diagnosis of TB.
Aims To evaluate whether differences exist in disease characteristics and time to diagnosis with availability of the rapid referral system.
Methods A retrospective analysis of data collected from patients referred to the Rapid Access TB clinic between the years 2005 and 2010 was conducted. A sub-group analysis was completed for the years 2007–2009 comparing cases referred to the rapid access clinic with those diagnosed by other (non-rapid referral) pathways.
Results 1552 suspected cases of tuberculosis were referred through the rapid access system, with a positive diagnosis made in 566 (36.5%). Radiological coding of CXR reports was the primary trigger for 93.8% of referrals. No differences existed in age, gender or ethnicity of patients identified through rapid access or other pathways. A significantly higher proportion of cases identified through rapid access were pulmonary (Abstract P54 table 1). The rapid access system was associated with a significant reduction in the time to specialist assessment for both non-pulmonary and smear positive pulmonary TB.
Conclusions A rapid access system of referral that incorporates a red-flag coding system of potentially abnormal CXRs effectively identifies a significant proportion of pulmonary TB cases and reduces the time to assessment and treatment of smear positive pulmonary TB.
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